I am Mara Osumo and I served an 18-month full-time mission from February 2020 to July 2021. I was born in the covenant since both my parents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Since I was young, I always wanted to be a missionary. Growing up in the church, I was in an environment where I would often meet missionaries, mostly from overseas countries far away, who had left their families to serve missions and teach the gospel in the place I was living. My parents too had their own special experiences with other missionaries in the past, since my parents were both not members of the church initially and had only converted and joined the church later after being taught by missionaries. Something about those missionaries I met, coupled with my parents' own personal stories, made me want to become like them someday. I definitely also loved singing the song “I Want to be a Missionary Now” when I was in primary, which added to my desire to serve a mission when I grew older.
Still, as I approached the crossroads in 2019 after finishing junior college, and had to decide if I will serve a mission or not, I found myself facing doubts and not wanting to go. I liked my life at that time and did not want the momentum to stop. I just finished the GCE A level exams and had a choice to go on to immediately further my studies and other pursuits. “Did I really want to jump right ahead to 18 months of walking and giving out copies of the Book of Mormon?” was the major question that weighed on my mind. I see now in hindsight that despite meeting missionaries since my youth, my idea of missionaries and missionary work back then was highly inaccurate and missed out a lot of important parts I only discovered when I served.
I decided I should apply anyway. Initially, it was with the mindset that I should just go ahead and apply because serving a mission had been my dream since a young age (my parents helped remind me of that). I also thought that if I had any indication or feeling that I should not serve a mission, I still had time to withdraw my papers before leaving.
It was a year of fasting, praying and reading with the same question: “Should I serve a mission?” Even after I received my mission call in October 2019, there was still a part of me in doubt. At this point, I did not feel like I had gotten an answer yet.
Finally, it was on New Year's Day of 2020 when I came across a scripture that confirmed my decision and changed everything: “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:23)
I realised then that I already had an answer. It was not exactly at any specific point during that year of fasting, praying and reading per se. It included the time I invited my friend for the first time to a church activity and felt very happy doing so. It also included the time I was talking to another dear friend about families and how much God loves her after she told me about a death that happened in her family. It included all the moments when I had the opportunity to talk about or defend my faith. Through all these instances, Heavenly Father had already given me the answer! I had only chosen not to see it, until that night, on New Year’s Day.
So eventually, I served my mission! Not just because it was a dream of mine since I was young. That dream would probably have only sustained me through the first week of my actual mission, till I realised that serving a mission is actually quite different from, and much harder than what I had imagined. I realised it was not what I had expected because I imagined that the mission is simply about learning and teaching the Gospel. Although that is one of the core duties for missionaries, the mission is so much more than that. It requires great faith, hard work, and love.
One particular activity missionaries face is contacting and talking to strangers on the street. I was so shy and afraid to do so (I still am now). When we had a mission goal of talking to 30 people in a day, I was very doubtful of my ability. Sometimes, I felt that the odds were also against us too. However, one day, I continuously tried and tried to talk to people. Our companionship managed to have conversations with 24 people! It was so surreal and although no one wanted to meet us for lessons, I was overcome with the spirit of gratitude. That night, while writing my journal, I suddenly had the idea of writing descriptions of every one and the conversations I had with them. It turned out to be a special moment as I realised that that is probably how Jesus ministers to those He meets. He does it one-by-one. He served individually and whole-heartedly. I was reminded of two things that day: I can do nothing without Jesus Christ as my guide, and becoming like Jesus is why I should be doing the things I am doing. The blessings I received as I was set-apart as a missionary helped me to center my service more on Jesus Christ and to strive to become a true representative for Him.
One special coincidence on my mission is that my very last missionary companion happened to be no other than my very first companion when starting out on the mission in the missionary training centre (MTC), which is very rare since missionaries are usually assigned to work with different companions as they go through their mission. I asked her what she thought my biggest change is and she responded that it seemed that I am happier. This happiness was different compared to that on my first day in the MTC. I was so struck. I felt the whispering to me at that time how true it was, that I had become a changed person. On returning to Singapore after my mission, I felt that my eyes were fresher, and my heart bigger.
So I served my mission, because I knew personally that it is what God wanted for me. It was my little sacrifice to follow Jesus Christ by saying “Not my will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). No matter how hard it was, I will be eternally grateful for this decision which allowed me to grow further spiritually and learn life lessons I otherwise could not have gained.